Monday, February 26, 2018

A Trip Through Teddy's Story Joint

"The new batch of characters came in real bland."
"Just save it for the new Twilight book."

*Jane Austen walks in* "I'll have the usual."

"That'll buy you an old man, and because I like you, I'll throw in the sea."
"This is gonna be so boring."
"All those poor highschoolers."

I'm a big fan of Studio C. Betcha couldn't guess that one. 😉 One of my favorite sketches (okay, yes, I have a lot of favorites), is Teddy's Story Joint. Why? Because I'm a writer.

Teddy's Story Joint is all about writers coming to buy their plots and characters. You've got Jane Austen, Earnest Hemmingway, George Lucas (with J.K. Rowling copying his order), jabs at Stephanie Meyer and Michael Bay, senators... It's really pretty funny, and it also makes me think. There really do seem to only be so many plots, so many basic storylines. Especially when you write genre fiction, stories tend to follow a formula. They follow an expected storyline.

For instance, Jane Austen: "Girl likes a guy, doesn't look like she's going to get the guy, but then she does...with a witty social critique on the side."

Not too different from most romances.

Or portal fantasy stories: Person from our world goes through a portal to a world with problems, they're prophesied to save the country, which they do, then they go home.

It's cliche. It usually makes it all the same. Like sports movies and animal movies. It can get annoying. (Hallmark movies...)

But the thing is, cliches are cliches because they work. People keep using these basic plots because they work. They make sense. People know what to expect.

But yet, even when you use that same basic plot, the story doesn't have to be the same as all the others. In fact, it shouldn't be. You should put your own unique twist on it. Your portal fantasy can still follow the same basic pattern of person goes to another world, saves it, and comes home and yet be completely different from Narnia. You can use that girl likes a guy, doesn't look like she's going to get the guy, but then she does plot line and it can be just as different from Pride and Prejudice as The Lake House is. 

The trappings are different. The characters are different. The writing style is different.

Yes, in many cases, you can strip away the details of a story and get it down to a basic storyline that's the same as every other story in the genre. And some lesser quality stories don't become very unique once you flesh them out...but the great ones do. The great ones have so many layers to them that they become unique. They're so full that you don't realize if that basic plot has been used a hundred times already.

And sometimes it'll be so unique and amazing a plot that it'll become a cliche itself.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Those Times When I Can Write

It's difficult finding time to write when you're an adult. When I'm working at the library 17 hours a week, teaching 5 1/2 hours a week plus prep, practicing piano a minimum of 45 minutes a day, trying to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes 3 times a week, recording an audio book of Creighton Hill, keeping the basement clean, doing dishes and cooking when it's my turn, leading Bible study once a month, keeping up with my blog, occasionally feeding my imagination with good books, trying not to lose touch with all my gets really hard to find time to write. And it's harder when writing doesn't always come easy.

I've made it no secret over the past several years that writing has been a struggle for me. I'm glad to say that the last couple of times I've sat down to write have been better. I'm rediscovering the way words work. (Can you believe I'd forgotten? I don't think having my primary story intake be in a visual medium was helpful.) It's slow progress, but my imagination is gradually waking back up. I'm inching back towards writing stories again. I'm inching back towards being able to dream and imagine.

But unfortunately, the above-mentioned adult busyness makes it very difficult to find time to devote to writing. I don't think my boss would be happy if I called in to tell him I wasn't coming to work because I have a chapter that needs writing. I don't think my students or their parents would be happy if they showed up for lessons and I was immersed in writing and refused to stop. No one in my family would be happy if there was no dinner because I was writing instead.

It's a difficult balancing act, especially when writing isn't my top priority. Unfortunately, the things that pay and keep the house going tend to be more important. But I can still find time here and there. Once I get the casserole in the oven, sometimes I sit down at the kitchen table and write. If I manage to get my other at-home work done early, I can squeeze in some writing time. It's not much, it's slow going, I'm not sure the end of June is a realistic deadline for draft 1, and I'm not even 100% sure where I'm going with this book, but I love it anyway.

I love that it's a low pressure project. I'm taking a break from my big projects (i.e. Espionage sequel and Cassie story) to have fun with a story. I don't have a purpose for writing it other than just to write a good story. The theme will come in time. I don't have a clue what the word count will be, what every plot point is, or if the midpoint will fall at the 50% mark, and that's okay. It's fluid, I just focus on what the next step is, it could be really great or really terrible, and it doesn't matter. Again, I'm not that far. I mostly just know the basic premise. But after all that I've been through writing-wise these last few years, I need a project like this. And if I find time to write between jobs and cooking and piano practice, it's going to be good for my imagination.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Piano Method Books

This week, I'm talking about my experience with different piano methods. Have you used Bastiens Piano Basics or Edna Mae Burnam's Step by Step?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Cover Reveal: The Worth of a King

I have a brand new cover to show you! It's for The Worth of a King by Kendra E. Ardnek. I haven't read much of the book, but I'm signed up to beta read, and I know it's going to be awesome. After all, it's going to have Amber and Granite before Amber went all evil.

First, the description: 

Princess Obsidia’s father was killed the night she was born. Since there was no male heir, the crown went to the man who killed him, by Dialcian law. This never bothered her, growing up, and when it comes time for Obsidia to choose her husband, she chooses Prince Delaney, the son of that man, with little hesitation. Only then does her life start crumbling around her.

Adrian expected to live a normal life, taking his father’s place at the print shop when his father retired. But, on his eighteenth birthday, when the princess’ engagement is announced, his world is ripped out from under him when he learns that his life was a ruse, and he is the twin brother to the princess – and expected to take back his father’s throne.

Delaney knows that his country is hovering on the brink of war – and that his father may harbor murderous intentions towards his intended bride due to her Zovordian blood. He wants nothing more than to protect Obsidia and his people, but as merely prince, he has little power against his father.

The ancient war between the Dragons and the Immortal King and Queen is nearing its climax, and the three are already caught in it.

Read the first chapter here!

Coming August 27!

Doesn't it look cool?

I also have a snippet to share with you.

     Instead of stating their reason for coming, Christa had a question of her own. “I thought that Jerolin was working with the blacksmith now.”
     One of the young men looked up and settled a glare on Delaney. “I am,” he admitted. “Garen gave me the day off today so I decided to help out here with the big order.” This must have been Jerolin.
     “You’re helping?” Christa giggled. “It looks like you spilled a book.”
     “Three would be more accurate,” said the other young man – Adrian, by process of elimination. “It’ll take hours to sort it back out. We were just debating…” he trailed off as he looked up and noticed the guests. “Oh.”

Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. "Finish your story, Kendra," is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that glorify God and His Word.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Amazon

Other Blogs in the Cover Reveal:
Dreams and Dragons
Unicorn Quester
Kiri Liz
Read, Write, Laugh, Dance
Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings
Books, Baking, and Cowgirl Boots
Jenelle Schmidt
Reality Reflected
Jessica Greyson
The Music of a Story
The Flowering Vales
The Rambling Rose
Written Rest
The Labyrinth
Bible and Books
Jaye L. Knight

Monday, February 5, 2018

Wonder Review
'My name is August.
I won't describe to you what I look like.
Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.'

Ten-year-old August Pullman wants to be ordinary. He does ordinary things. He eats ice-cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, he has been home-schooled by his parents his entire life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, Auggie's parents are sending him to a real school. Can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches, Wonder is a frank, funny, astonishingly moving debut to be read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.


I laughed, I moved me, Bob.

This book is so good. It's so powerful and amazing, and I can't wait to see the movie. Hopefully it holds up.

Before I get into what I loved, I want to mention my three criticisms. Yup, three. 1) It's not 100% supportive of homeschooling. Basically, Auggie was homeschooled because of his weak immune system, not for any philosophical reason, so while they don't look down on homeschooling, they still act like a brick-and-mortar school is the ideal form of education. 2) Summer (one of Auggie's friends) believes in reincarnation. It's one conversation, and Auggie doesn't ever appear to believe in it, but I still didn't like that. 3) Justin, you're in high school! Use your capitals and quotation marks! I'm not sure why R.J. Palacio decided to write Justin's part without capitals or quotation marks. Maybe it's a "cool kid" thing. I wouldn't know. I'm not cool and never will be. It made the grammar Nazi inside me cringe, and caused Justin's section to be the only one where I looked ahead to see where it ended. I cared about Justin's POV, but really? USE CAPITALS!

Other than those three things, THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND I CAN'T LOVE IT ENOUGH.

This is the story of Auggie Pullman, a 5th grader with a severe facial deformity, and all the lives he touches. He faces bullying, he faces the involuntary horror of practically everyone who sees him, he faces betrayal, he faces the ordinary hardships that come when your beloved dog gets old and sick, he faces the normal difficulties of middle school, complicated by his face. It made me angry when kids played "Plague" refusing to touch him. It made me hopping mad when the kids at the camp out called him an orc. And yet there's so much good. So much he overcomes. So much reconciliation and forgiveness. So much that changes for the better when Auggie is just himself.

Outside of Auggie, I think I loved Via the best. She made me want to cry. She's had it rough. By default, her own emotional needs often get neglected because Auggie just requires more attention. Yet she doesn't complain. When things are rough for her, she thinks of all Auggie has been through and determines she has no right to complain about what she's going through. When she doesn't want to deal with the way people react to Auggie, she feels terrible. She's had to put up with a lot, being the child who doesn't need as much care. And through it all, she dearly loves her little brother. She loves her parents. She's devoted to her family. She even wants to be a geneticist so she can study why Auggie's face happened. And she's dear to my heart.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has challenges. Everyone has their rough patches. Some people's struggles may be better hidden than Auggie's, but everyone has them, and that's what Wonder shows us. It's a bigger story than just a book about a kid with a severe facial abnormality. It's about kindness. Kindness to all. Pulling together and supporting each other. Friendship. Loyalty.

As Mr. Tushman says at the end, "If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every one of you, the face of God."

"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."